Karin Norington-Reaves hadn’t been intimately involved with retail since she was in college, working at a high-end Chicago grocery store where she occasionally rang up Oprah’s purchases. But today, retail is front and center for Norington-Reaves, CEO of Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership. The organization, a leader in developing sector-specific programs to help people find jobs and advance their careers, received a $10.9 million grant from the Wal-Mart Foundation to provide education and employment services for retail workers.
“We’re helping change the narrative about what it means to be employed in the retail sector,” Norington-Reaves says. “That you can move beyond cashier and build a career.” Norington-Reaves, a recognized thought leader and former litigator for the U.S. Department of Justice, has raised nearly $50 million during her time at the Partnership. The organization has a staff of 70 and places about 10,000 job-seekers annually. “It’s a remarkably rewarding job,” she says.